ZDNet blogger Richard MacManus wrote a good post late yesterday about the significant release of eBay's new community wiki pages, likely the largest commercial wiki effort to date. But eBay is almost certainly just one of an early beachhead of corporate wiki efforts that will attempt to use wikis to create better overall customer service experiences for their users, suppliers, and partners. Not leveraging the contributions of a company's most impassioned and enthusiastic customers is starting to be seen as an significant oversight in many business circles.
Read about exploiting wikis as part of adding Web 2.0 techniques to the enterprise
For another interesting example of this phenomenon, we have only to look at enterprise giant Microsoft who has recently put their MSDN Wiki pages into public beta. The MSDN Wiki will help speed up and improve the quality of Microsoft's massive developer documentation, which is often a bit behind the reality of their release schedule, by letting customers contribute their own information, techniques, code samples, and advice.
Both eBay and Microsoft's wiki efforts are worth some examination because they will provide a clear public demonstration of what works and what doesn't to those who wish to follow by providing public corporate wiki presence.
I took a look at MSDN Wiki yesterday and came away with an impression of a pretty standard wiki look and feel. Most lacking was the smoothness and elegance of leading edge non-commercial wikis like Wikipedia (which uses the extremely capable Mediawiki platform), particularly since Microsoft has had previously had full access to great thinkers in this space such as wiki inventor himself, Ward Cunningham.
Read some additional analysis of MSDN Wiki by Tim Anderson
While admittedly in beta, MSDN Wiki did not support Firefox for editing (indeed, it actually crashed my Firefox browser the very first time I visited it), and required contributing users to log into the relatively unpopular Passport identity system (now called Microsoft Live ID) to edit content.
On the plus side, MSDN Wiki actually has a fair amount of content already and several good mechanisms for quickly locating both the most popular and newest contributions. Microsoft, increasingly embracing Creative Commons, licenses user contributions to MSDN Wiki under the Creative Commons 2.5 non-commercial license. Users also have to agree to a tedious four document set of terms for contributions, not exactly the lowest barrier but probably legally necessary for an organization the size of Microsoft.
It will be fascinating to track MSDN Wiki and see how much Microsoft makes of it since it has the potential to be a tremendous source of quality documentation that no single company could create on its own. However, while there seems to be too many barriers to contribution to MSDN Wiki, including logins, popups, and license agreements, the readership experience seems solid, including a decent information architecture. I’ll keep an eye on how MSDN Wiki and others like it progresses.
Do you know of any other major corporate public wikis? Please share in Talkback!